Data Persistence: Keeping Data Safe in an Ever-Changing Digital World
Just as there is more data, there are more types of persistent data that must be secured for the future value it may be able to provide.
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I wrote What is Persistent Data in 2016 based on research I conducted for DZone’s Data Persistence Research Guide. A lot has changed since then. Here’s an update.
Data persistence refers to the ability to retain data in a durable and recoverable form, even as hardware, software, and devices change around it. As our world becomes increasingly digital, having reliable methods of data persistence is more crucial than ever.
In the past, data persistence mainly referred to storing data on physical disks that could survive power outages. While disks are still used today, there are now many more options for achieving data persistence thanks to advancements in cloud computing, flash storage, and in-memory databases.
Expanded Definitions of Data Persistence
The conventional definition of persistent data is "data that is non-volatile and stored in an actual format so it can be retrieved repeatedly." This is in contrast to transient in-memory data that disappears when a system is powered off.
However, the meaning of data persistence has evolved to encompass:
- Data stored in durable media like disks, tape, and flash storage
- Replicated data stored across multiple servers or locations
- Data stored in non-relational databases like NoSQL that can run entirely in memory but maintain copies for persistence
- Virtualized data that appears persistent but may rely on non-persistent infrastructure
So in today's IT landscape, data persistence refers not just to static data saved to disk, but to a range of technologies that provide access to stable and recoverable data stores.
Importance of Persistent Data
Persistent data is the foundation for digital business activities today. It includes:
- Master data like customer info, product catalogues, and financial records
- Transaction data and records from operations
- Metadata that describes key business entities and data schema
- Reference data like geographical info and codes
Without reliable persistence, this data could not be effectively processed, analyzed, or audited. Losing access to persistent data stores could bring business operations to a standstill.
Advancements in Data Persistence Technologies
While disks continue to store the bulk of critical business data, new technologies are addressing their limitations like latency, size constraints, and throughput:
- Flash storage offers much faster read/write performance than traditional disks
- Object stores allow storing massive amounts of unstructured data in the cloud
- Replication tool synchronously mirrors data across distributed databases
- Virtualization abstracts physical storage into logical pools that applications can access and scale on demand
- High availability clusters eliminate single points of failure to maximize uptime
These technologies make it possible to persist data at scale in distributed environments and provide continuous access.
Case Studies on Persistent Data Strategies
Financial Company X - Created a multi-site architecture for zero downtime by replicating databases between an on-prem data centre and the cloud. If one site fails, the other ensures uninterrupted data access.
Healthcare Provider Y - Uses a disk-based data warehouse for analytics and reporting. They added a flash storage tier to reduce query times from hours to seconds for time-sensitive insights.
SaaS Company Z - Hosts databases in a cloud-based database-as-a-service to automatically scale capacity as their data grows without managing infrastructure.
As data volumes explode, data persistence is more critical than ever. New challenges require going beyond traditional disk-based storage to utilize advanced technologies like Flash, distributed systems, and cloud storage. With careful planning, companies can implement data persistence strategies to protect their information assets today and into the future.
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